Re-Doing ESPN’s Future Power Rankings (1-5)

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1. Golden State Warriors

Jan 25, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) and Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) chase a loose ball during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls won 103-87. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Big surprise, right?  Maybe not.  But this team is done with surprises.  They already did that.  Now they’re looking to compete.

The 2012-13 Warriors revitalized a franchise that has enjoyed a rabidly loyal fanbase despite years of disappointment, poor free agency choices (which are still hurting them, but we’ll get to that) and shaky draft calls.

Now, they have a very young core of strong players. Klay Thompson made his name this postseason on the defensive end of the court, gaining a lot from his huge 6’7 frame, often taking on the other team’s strongest wing player. It also allows him to defend multiple positions. Tack that onto his ability to get very hot and hit threes, and he can be all kinds of a headache for any team.

Harrison Barnes made the Warriors’ playoff run his coming out party, thriving at his natural small forward position and also, surprisingly, as a small-ball power forward when David Lee went down.

Golden State has Festus Ezeli, who played well as a rotation center, and Draymond Green, a great defender and rebounder with a lot of work to do on his offense. Kent Bazemore, despite his faults, provides enthusiasm and effort off the bench, with promise as a defender. Andrew Bogut is suddenly trying to make himself worth the contract, and is doing a decent job of it.

Oh, and then there’s Stephen Curry, the NBA’s newest superstar. He hits threes, twos, driving shots and floaters. He makes attempts that no one has any business making. Despite resting on ankles of glass, he carried this team to a great season and through a shocking playoff run, upsetting the third-seeded Denver Nuggets and handing the Spurs two losses en route to the Finals.

This team isn’t without their future detractions though. There are actually two: Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins.  They account for more $20 million in cap space, and almost never play. They both out-earn Stephen Curry. They’re not nearly good enough to make waves in the trade pool, not even if they had decent contracts.

And that makes the salary for Golden State a rough situation. Unless they bite the bullet and attract the luxury tax, this will be the squad they go with for a while. But that’s fine.  They’re very potent, very young and extremely promising.  The Warriors succeeded this year by playing a crazy amount of rookies in solid minutes, so just imagine what they can do over the next, say, two years.

Guess what their salary drops to one year from now?  $25.6 million.  That’s right.  And that amount maintains the core of Thompson, Barnes and Curry. With a young squad of stars (some still in the making) like that, a vibrant fan base and a new arena coming in a few years, this team could make some huge waves in the coming years in free agency with that money.

The past is dark and fraught with nightmares for the Golden State Warriors.  But the future, if handled well?  It’s never been brighter.